It is hard at this point to say whether we are witnessing the long slow collapse of Western Civilisation or just a blip along the unpredictable path of history. But what can be said is that the central pillars of Western society are under attack: free speech (to the left and the right alike), universal suffrage (to the intellectuals and "the stupid" alike), freedom of conscience (for all religions including those pesky Christians), freedom of the press (for the Daily Mail and Breibart), and rule of law (for rich and the poor).
The traditions of a well ordered society are also under attack, mostly by hypocrites who practice the nuclear family tradition (man and woman, marriage, no divorce), recognising the stability, prosperity and benefits it brings (to children in particular), but preaching and legislating for every other conceivable option other than this tradition. Worse, attacking those who live by the nuclear family and have the gall to preach it too.
Finally the morals of society have been dead and buried for quite a number of years. Good is evil and evil is good and "progress" is nothing more than a byword for evil men to sexually abuse woman. A child is not considered responsible enough to buy alcohol but can choose to delay puberty and identify as a different sex. Women have never been more "valued" by society and never been more exploited and objectified through the porn and sex trade industry. It's never been a better time to be disabled, except if you are in the womb and then you are likely to be killed, as an inferior human being who does not meet the required standards. Right and wrong is this topsy turvy world can change on a daily basis.
This faltering of the West may or may not be terminal, for there is always grounds for hope. But it does force a question to the front of the mind: what can be done about it? The answer is the local church.
I am indebted to Rod Dreher for this idea, as expressed in his book "The Benedict Option", where he calls for a strategic retreat by Christians from the public sphere to focus on protecting their truth, traditions and communities from whatever disasters may or may not be coming the way of Western Civilisation. Dreher is writing mainly to Americans who persist under an illusion, long gone in other Western countries, that Christianity still has any respect in the public sphere.
But the public sphere in the West will only respect a Christianity that is no Christianity at all, one devoid of any challenge and singing from the secular hymn sheet. Therefore, the priority has to be on ensuring our local churches can survive in a hostile public space, and for that the local church needs what Western Civilisation has turned its back on:
It needs Truth
"I am the way, the truth and the life" says Jesus, and the local church has the Bible, God's Word, his truth to us. And unlike the modern world, God's truth does not change, it is not in vogue one day then forgotten the next, it is not at the mercy of every latest fad or whim. It is truth unchanged and unchanging because God is unchanged and unchanging.
God has set the train tracks for humanity to live by, he has revealed to us his good and right laws to obey, he has properly and correctly set everything in its proper place for human well being and flourishing. God is our Creator, he does know best.
And as local churches, as Christians, we need to live out these lives. Love, peace and gentleness where today there is so much hatred, violence and witch-hunting. Generosity, kindness and forgiveness where today there is scorn and cruelty. Sex inside marriage, marriage between one man and one woman for life, morality firmly and confidently taught and practiced.
As much as possible, local churches need to be a light to the watching world on the richness of a God-ordered life, the deep joy of friendship with God, and the resulting love for each other.
It needs Tradition
Tradition gets an increasing bad rap in the West and in some churches. It is seen as hidebound and quaint, beneath the attentions of a generation that thinks it the pinnacle of progressive humanity.
Yet tradition is the wisdom of the ages passed down, it has a rightful place in the church and in our lives. It should never be put in the highest place but it should always been given an important place.
Two thousand years of Christian teaching is quite clear on marriage between a man and a woman only, but some would insist that all of that should be ignored, the Bible should be ignored, and actually, the sexual revolution understood God's will better than the church.
Tradition roots us to Christians throughout history, it should be ignored at great peril and it is only local churches with strong traditions that will survive the current assault on the Christian faith. Liberal Christianity will barely last a generation because it is shallow, lacking any roots to hold people against the tide of secularism.
It needs Community
The modern man is a lonely fellow. If he has no sports group then his source of community is his workplace, his friends from university, and the emptiness of the internet. Dis-attachment is lauded and rewarded, uncommitment cherished and there is so little that can be allowed to tie him down.
The local church has all the richness and difficultly of community, being full of different people who have to be loved and tolerated. For the local church binds each member together, with a shared love for God and a desire to live out the call for Christian unity.
A local church has more love and friendship, more joy and peace, than ten thousand internet forums. From personal experience, it has kept me from many a dark place. In all the liquidity of the modern life it provide a stable and loving community that can be trusted and relied on in times of hardship.
As Christians we need to dig deep into the truth of the Bible, dig deep into Christian tradition and dig deep into loving communities. For they will help the church survive, even if the West does not.